Chilean prosecutors drop charges over 2010 mine collapse | News | DW | 02.08.2013

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Chilean prosecutors drop charges over 2010 mine collapse

The Chilean public prosecutor's office has decided not to press charges against the owners of a mine that collapsed in 2010, trapping 33 workers underground for 70 days. Miners have responded with anger.

After a three-year probe into the mine collapse, the public prosecutor's office said the investigation had left it "unconvinced" of the need to file charges.

One of the miners, Mario Sepulveda, told the AP news agency that the decision was "a disgrace to Chile's justice system."

"It's impossible that in an accident of this magnitude no one is held responsible," said Sepulveda, who became a spokesman for the men at the time of the collapse and subsequent dramatic rescue. He added: "Today, I want to dig a deep hole and bury myself again; only this time, I don't want anybody to find me."


Laurence Goldborne, who was mining minister at the time of the accident, also condemned the decision.

"It seems incredible to me that this would be the decision after a three-year probe," he said, stressing that the mine had obviously not been properly managed.

"Had the chimney at the San Jose mine had a ladder, in accordance with regulations... the 33 miners would not have spent 70 days trapped 700 meters (765 yards) under the ground," Goldborne said.

After the rescue, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera had vowed that those responsible for the cave-in would be held responsible.

A civil suit for compensation for the miners has been filed. A lawyer for 31 of the 33 men, Renato Frenafeta, said most of them had suffered from "serious psychological consequences" following the accident.

He said many could no longer work.

Worldwide broadcast

The San Jose mine in the Atacama Desert caved in on August 5, 2010, trapping the 33 miners in a hollow space under tons of rock. More than two weeks passed before it became known that the men had survived, which they did by stretching their 48-hour supply of emergency rations for 17 days.

Eventually, a narrow shaft was drilled into the hollow where the men were enclosed, establishing contact and allowing food and water to be sent to them.

The miners were finally rescued on October 13 in a spectacular operation that was broadcast around the world.

The incident focused attention on safety issues in the Chilean mining industry, one of the country's most important sources of income.

Following the accident, the rate of mining-related deaths and accidents in Chile fell, a fact the Mining Ministry attributes to better oversight by inspectors.

tj/rc (dpa, AP)